Happy 5th Birthday Marko!

I thought I was pretty good at posting birthday posts, but it looks like I haven't done one since Marko turned three!

We'll follow the same process and look back at the last couple of years...

When you were four...
Dinosaurs were still the thing and we took you to Drumheller to see real dinosaur bones, although you reminded us quite frequently that all the dinosaurs DIED and these are not REAL, okay?  You are the man of a million questions, from "Why do I have a bum?" to "Where is my soul?"  Youtube has provided a constant support to this endless stream of questions, since it's sometimes easier to just watch a frog eat a fly in slow motion than to try to explain how a frog's tongue works.  I feel like I'll always remember the funny way you mispronounce certain words, only to have you learn how to say them properly and then I find myself struggling to remember the sweet way you mispronounced them only a few days ago.  Your smile can light up a room, and you're such a caring soul.

Now you're five...
And it's all about superheroes!  Batman was a favourite and it was your Hallowe'en costume, but Spider-Man and Ironman are close seconds.  You had a Spider-Man birthday cake, and have already pre-booked the next two birthday cakes: Ironman next year, and Batman the year after that.  You have the most amazing relationship with your dad, and I'm so grateful for that, even when I am occasionally told, "Mama, it's boy time, okay?  You can be a superhero next time."

Marko, my beautiful baby boy, my angel -- may you always shine as brightly as you do now.  Five is going to be your best year yet, full of exciting adventures, like kindergarten!  If the last five years are any indication of how wonderful you are, I can scarcely wait for the next fifty.

Mama loves you so so so much!

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Surprise Me - Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella is a hit or miss kind of writer for me, but Surprise Me was definitely in the hit category.  Although some of her books have been duds (like Twenties Girl and the majority of the Shopaholic series), I found that Surprise Me was full of cutesy moments and heartfelt character development.

When Sylvia and her husband Dan find out that they're expected to live to at least a hundred years of age, both of them are shocked to find out that this means that life will also include 68 more years of wedded bliss.  When 68 years starts to feel a bit daunting, they decide to mix things up by trying to surprise one another.  This is where the silliness of the book comes in, and I thought that I was in store for a traditional Sophie Kinsella book full of miscommunications and relationship ups and downs with a bunch of giggly cringe-worthy moments.  About halfway through the book, the story took a different turn than I was expecting, and I was on the edge of my seat as the rest of the story unfolded.

Surprise Me had way more heart and soul than Sophie's previous books, and I felt like this was one of her more mature books to date.  If this is the direction that her writing will be taking for future books, I'm definitely intrigued to see what she comes up with next!

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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She Regrets Nothing - Andrea Dunlop

I've followed Andrea Dunlop on social media for a while, but hadn't tried her writing yet.  I had a similar experience with Rachel Del, getting to know the writer online through her posts before I tried out her work.  It's an interesting experience to feel like you know an author a little bit before reading her book, and it has paid off twice now!

I have no regrets about picking up She Regrets Nothing (ha! I had to write just the one pun -- I'm done now, I promise).  The storyline read a lot like Gossip Girl for adults -- I felt like Laila's character reminded me a lot of Jenny, and all of things that she got into while trying to fit into the elite world of Manhattan.  And just like I felt with Jenny, Laila annoyed me.  A lot.  One of the most powerful things in contemporary literature is when a character can annoy me to high heavens, but I still can't put the book down.  In a way, it also reminded me a The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo -- I couldn't stand Evelyn, but I couldn't stop reading either.  I felt exactly the same way about Laila.  I wanted to smack her, I wanted to jump into the story and shake her shoulders and tell her to smarten up because she had so many things going for her and kept managing to find ways to screw everything up.  When an author can bring out those kinds of emotions with a work of contemporary fiction, I find that admirable.

She Regrets Nothing will definitely not be the last of Andrea's books for me, and I'm already looking forward to picking up her other book that I've seen all over Instagram, Losing the Light.  I highly recommend this one for your spring break holiday, or to be tucked into your beach bag this summer.  It's light and fun, but also has a lot of heart.

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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When My Heart Joins the Thousand - A.J. Steiger

It's been a couple of weeks since I finished this book, and I've been struggling to find the words to write this review.  It's often easier to write reviews for books that are flawed, but harder to write reviews for books that I loved, especially when they touched my heart in such a unique way.  When My Heart Joins the Thousand is one of those books.

I feel like this book will fly under the radar this year, and this makes me wish that I had one of those blogs with thousands of readers so that I could share a rave review and instantly have thousands of people rush to their local bookstores to purchase this book.  Alas, I am a small book blog, but my love for this book is REAL.

Our heroine, Alvie, is everything that I have ever hoped for in a contemporary YA heroine.  She's fierce, determined, flawed and perfectly human.  While it's apparent from the early pages of the story that Alvie struggles with fitting in, I loved that this is not the central aspect of the story.  Although it is a book about mental health, it's more about the world not fitting with how Alvie sees and interprets the world around her, and her views are so genuine that her story tore my heart out again and again.  I wanted to jump into the book and rage against the injustices that she faced, but I also tore through page after page, rooting for her along the way.

This book has it all.  It's the sweetest love story, a story of both friendship and something more.  It made me laugh, cry, rage and then run through the whole range of emotions all over again.  When My Heart Joins the Thousand is truly one of those perfectly memorable books and one that will stick with you long after the last page has turned.  Please run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore to get your hands on a copy -- I promise that you won't be disappointed.

Note: An egalley was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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February TBR

I'm not terribly good at sticking to monthly TBR lists, but I do enjoy making them -- so I'm going to keep on posting these!  This month I've selected a few books that are catching my eye, but I'm going to try to read to five themes ... so I may choose a different book for each theme.

Read a fantasy book.
I saw somewhere that February is #fantasyfebruary and I'm totally pumped for that.  With the exception of The Language of Thorns, I read only contemporary fiction in January, so I'm ready to mix it up.

Read A Little Life.
This is the only specific book that I want to read this month, because I already started it, and I was enjoying it, before I got a nasty cold and had to set it aside.  It'll be my Heart's Invisible Furies this month, and I'm fully prepared for ALL THE FEELS.

Read a thriller.
I got totally hooked on thrillers during Spookathon last year, and have been craving another one.  So possible The Good Daughter, or a different one, but I want a super creepy page turner.

Listen to an audiobook.
I listened to two audiobook last month and got back into colouring this month, which was totally fun! I bought the audiobook for The Revolution of Marina M because I wanted to fully experience the Russian in this book, and I feel like I could fully immerse myself in this book by flipping back and forth.

Read a collection of shorter stories.
I read The Language of Thorns last month, and I enjoyed dipping in and out of a book, and having it last all month, but not feeling like I'd set it aside and then having to remember what was happening.  With shorter stories, I can pick it up and put it down throughout the month, and this is the last unread Cassandra Clare book on my shelves ... while I not-so-patiently wait for the release of Queen of Air and Darkness.

How about you?  What's on your TBR list this month?  Let me know in the comments below ... and thank you for taking the time to stop by!

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Reading Round-up - January

One month into 2018 already, and what a whirlwind month it's been already!  The highlight of my month was getting promoted to Acting Supervisor, which reinforced my decision this time last year to make a career change.  The lowlight was coming down with the worst cold I've had in years, but I am grateful that I now have sick days that I can use to recuperate.

My year is off to a GREAT start, with all four and five star reads, with only one three star read and one DNF.

1. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
The PERFECT book to start the year with.  As soon as I received a copy in my Owlcrate, I couldn't wait to pick it up, especially because my friend Jessica @ Novel Cravings loved it last year.  I couldn't put it down, and it's definitely going to be one of my favourite contemporaries of the year.

2. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
I borrowed this one from the library last year, and couldn't get into it.  Later in the year, I found a brand new hardcover at a library sale for 25 cents, so I picked it up, thinking I'd give it another shot. But I saw that the library had it on audio, so I decided to listen again, and it was an EXCELLENT choice.  The audio was absolutely enthralling and I loved it.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My book club selected this book for our February meeting and, although I've already read it, I wanted to reread it to have it fresh in my mind.  I decided to listen on audio, just to have a different experience, and WOW, the audio was INCREDIBLE.  Highly, highly recommend.

4. Someone in the Way by Rachel Del
I reviewed this book on the blog earlier this month, but it's my new favourite of Rachel Del's books.

5. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I saw that this book was selected as Book of the Month's Book of the Year for 2017, and it just called to me from the shelf.  It BLEW ME AWAY and I savoured every word of its 600-page beautifulness.  Such an incredible book, and one that I'll be thinking about for some time.

6. She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop
7. When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger
8. Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
I am on FIRE with my ARC reading this year, and hope to keep it up.  All three of these books are releasing in February, so stay tuned for my reviews on release day!

-- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Badass Book Bitches selected a classic this month, and I tried to read it in physical form as well as audio, and I just couldn't get into it.  A little part of me is sad because my edition is so pretty, so it's possible I might give this another shot at a later time.  The fact that I had The Heart's Invisible Furies on the go at the same time may have been an influence on my thoughts.

9. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
One month in and I've finished one of the books on my 18 books to read in 2018 list!  I read this one while battling a head cold, which definitely had an effect on my enjoyment of the book.  I ended up feeling like the first two thirds were quite slow, but the last third made up for it (or maybe I just started feeling better), and overall it was very enjoyable.  

10. Losing Lily by Rachel Del
I had forgotten that I downloaded this prequel after I read Rachel's other novel, How to Be Someone Else, back in 2016.  Now that I've read Someone in the Way, I liked having another small glimpse into their lives, although novellas aren't always my favourite because I like a longer novel that I can sink my teeth into.

11. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
I buddy read this with Jessica @ Novel Cravings -- the first of many buddy reads this year, I hope!  I'd read some of the stories before, immediately after finishing the Grisha trilogy, but it was nice to revisit them as well as some of the new ones.  This entire books is so gorgeous, from the beautiful cover to the intricate illustrations.

12. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
One of my 2018 resolutions is to read the entire Anne of Green Gables series.  As a child, I only read the first couple of books because Anne got boring as she got older.  Now that I'm old and boring, I figured it's time for me to fully experience this Canadian classic.  I adored the Emily of New Moon trilogy when I read them in high school, and I'm fairly certain that I'll love this series as well, especially if the heart-warming joy that is the first book is any indication.

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TBR Pile - Looking Back

In May and June 2015, I shared a series of posts examining my TBR pile and the books that I'd read, and then crunched the numbers to see how back my TBR pile actually was.  I thought it would be fun to look back at was, and then compare it to what is .... almost three years later!

I broke down my TBR pile into three parts: standalones, series to start and series to finish.

Standalones: 74
Middle Grade: Out of the 21 books on the list, I've read two of the books, unhauled nine books, and I still have ten of these books on my shelves (one of which is on my list of 18 books to read in 2018!)
YA: Out of the 12 books on the list, I've read 7 and unhauled on, leaving four of those books still on my shelves.
Adult: Out of the 41 books on this list, I've read 12, unhauled five and still have 24 unread.

Series to Finish: 34
Middle Grade: Out of the 12 books on the list, I've read all but two.
YA: Out of the 15 books on the list, I have four that are unread, but I unhauled five.
Adult: Out of the seven books on this list, I have four still unread (and I'm counting the last Game of Thrones book as one book).

Series to Start: 24
Middle Grade: Both of the two books are still unread.
YA: Out of the 19 books, I've read seven, unhauled four and still have eight on my shelves.
Adult: Out of the three books, I've read one and still have the other two on my shelves.

And now here's the tricky part ... let's look at how many MORE books I've added to my shelves, and are still unread, since that post in 2015!  When I posted my reading resolutions, I said that I had 111 books on my shelves, but that wasn't being fully honest.  I wasn't counting ARCs or classics, so this post is the brutal, honest truth ... I currently have 131 unread books on my shelves!

Standalones: 67 (ten middle grade, ten young adult and 48 adult)
Series to Start: 37 (three middle grade, 21 young adult and 13 adult)
Series to Finish: 27 (two middle grade, seven young adult and 11 adult)

Looking back now, I see that my unread series books are a little higher, but in all honesty that's likely from the three series starters that I've received in my Owlcrate boxes, and I'm not even sure if I'm interested in reading those series.  Plus there's three new Karin Slaughter series books on my shelves that were recently acquired.  For series to finish, I'm up a little higher than I was back then, but not astronomically so.  AND, most impressively, I actually own less standalones on my TBR than I did almost three years ago.  I'm also happy to see how many books from that TBR list I've unhauled, either because I'd tried them and DNFed, or just simply realized that I have no intention of ever reading them.  The unhauled YA books have made their way into my husband's classroom, so I don't feel too bad, and one of his students fell head over heels in love with the Lux series as a result, which made me feel good.

Although my goal this year is to end the year with less physical books on my TBR, I'm also hoping to be ruthless with unhauling.  I'm wrestling with some thoughts on this, and I'll share a post on my thinking process in the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned!

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